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Staff Recommendations – February 2020

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INDEXES TO PAST STAFF RECOMMENDATIONS: BY TITLE | BY REVIEWER | TV SERIES/SPECIALS ON DVD | AGATHA CHRISTIE | STAR TREK | STAR WARS

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February 2020 Recommendations

Star Wars ReviewsDooku: Lost Jedi
by Scott Cavan

Dooku: Lost Jedi is an interesting book in that it appears never to have been intended to be a book. It appears the origins of Count Dooku were only meant to be a script for a digital audiobook. Thus, what we get is the script for the audiobook instead of a novelization. It turns out to be a pretty good story, but its script format makes the story choppy and clunky. I found it tricky to keep track of the characters and why each of them were important. I imagine hearing different voices for each character would have made that easier. Still, its an interesting story and a fun peak into the origins of an iconic Star Wars villain. It’s definitely worth a read or a listen.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray, Dark Disciple by Christie Golden or Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp.] [ Dooku: Jedi Lost page on Wookiepedia ] | [ official Cavan Scott web site ]

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


Star Wars ReviewsGalaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate
by Zoraida Cordova (YA Cordova)]

Galaxy’s Edge: A Crash of Fate is something of a companion piece to Delilah Dawson’s Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire. They both take place on Batuu (the setting for Disney’s Star Wars themed attraction). The fight between Resistance vs. First Order and other high-minded struggles takes a back seat to much smaller, more personal stories. The protagonists, Izal “Izzy” Garsea and Julen “Jules” Rakab, are a pair of star-crossed would-be lovers whom fate, the galaxy and maybe even the Force seem determined to bring together only to fling them apart again. The story is engaging and the characters are fun and relatable. The plot is pretty basic and the writing gets a little choppy in the middle of the story. It’s a teen novel, though the story elements are fairly tame – so it’s pretty safe for younger readers capable of taking on bigger books. Overall, this is a good addition to the Star Wars universe and easily accessible to any fan of Star Wars.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Lost Stars by Claudia Gray, Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah Dawson or Most Wanted by Rae Carson.] [ A Crash of Fate page on Wookiepedia ] | [ official Zoraida Cordova web site ]

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


Moonbound: Apollo 11 and the Dream of Spaceflight
by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm (629.454 Fet)

With last year, 2019, being the 50th anniversary of the first human moon landing — Apollo 11 — I had read quite a few books about that Apollo 11 mission in the spirit of commemorating the anniversary. Moonbound was the first book I read in 2020, after seeing it on our New Books display at the downtown library, and it started off the new year in a magnificent way.

Jonathan Fetter-Vorm is the author/illustrator of this graphic novel look at Apollo 11. He alternates chapters dealing with the build-up to and success of the Apollo 11 moon landing and return, with chapters dealing with various individuals and moments in history that highlight humans’ fascination with the moon (and astronomy) and with the development of the U.S. space program. The Apollo chapters are in full color, while the alternate chapters are all in monotone (for instance, B&W with blue highlights only, or B*W with orange highlights only). These alternate chapters deal with such diverse topics as Johannes Kepler, Nazi scientist Wernher Von Braun, Soviet rocket scientist Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, the Mercury astronauts, Women in the early years of the astronaut program, Margaret Hamilton and the early human computers, and so much more.

Even though I consider myself a space enthusiast, I learned new things from reading this book. Fetter-Vorm’s art style is occasionally a bit crude, but he captures the likenesses of well-known historical figures — the astronauts, scientists, politicians, etc. — very well! And for covering events that took place decades ago, he manages to build up a serious amount of suspense and drama. I particularly appreciated his closing chapters, which talk about the role of the space program in the years after Apollo, and the ongoing historical debate over whether the entire Apollo program was an appropriate and effective use of taxpayer funds.

I found this an absolutely engrossing read. I especially recommend it for anyone looking for a good overview of the Apollo program, but who isn’t willing to commit themselves to a large, text-only format!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to check out the One Small Step booklist, filled with additional recommended materials for Apollo Program enthusiasts! (coming soon)] [ official Moonbound page on the official Jonathan Fetter-Vorm web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Redwood and Ponytail
by K.A. Holt (j Holt)

K.A. Holt came to Nebraska in 2018 to receive her Golden Sower Award for ‘House Arrest,’ a book about poverty and taking responsibility for a younger sibling in a hard time.

Her latest novel-in-verse is ‘Redwood and Ponytail,’ the story of two seventh grade girls from wildly different social circles who feel drawn together in a way they haven’t experienced before. As Holt explains in the Acknowledgements page at the end, this is the book she wished she could have read in middle school or high school: a story about girls discovering that they like girls.

Kate is a ponytailed cheerleader who is driven to be “the best” by a mother who likely has borderline personality disorder. When she fills in as the team’s falcon mascot, she finds unexpected joy in putting energy into being herself instead of going for cheer captain as her mom plans.

Tam is a “redwood tall” volleyball player who hangs with the goofballs and has a high-five for everyone, even if not everyone acknowledges her. This year, both girls are noticing each other, having lunch together, and starting to hold each other’s pinkies as they walk down the hall.

Stylistically, I appreciated the Greek chorus between chapters that acts as agents of foreshadowing and hype. The story opens at a moment of crisis near the end of the story that involves a fire, then we go back to the start of the school year. A refreshing difference from so many middle grade school stories is that peer bullying doesn’t figure strongly into this book.

‘Redwood and Ponytale’ is a fun, suspenseful read about self-discovery and self-assertion that’s just right for kids at the age where they start having crushes.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee, Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee, One True Way by Shannon Hitchcock, Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake or Hurricane Child, by Kacen Callender] [ official Redwood and Ponytail page on the official K.A. Holt web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


The Thing About Bees: A Love Story
by Shabazz Larkin (jP Larkin)

The Thing About Bees is a picture book written and illustrated by a man who’s afraid of bees. Shabazz Larkin decided to learn more about bees so he could pass on knowledge and appreciation to his two sons, instead of fear.

What we have here are informational pages at the start and end, with a little great read-aloud poem in the middle. The first two-page spread explains how pollination works. You could still use it in storytime by pointing to the picture and summarizing for younger kids. Mr. Larkin starts the poetry section by telling kids that bees can be bothersome and scary.

“We may want bees gone / because their sting hurts.
But if they were all gone / it would hurt much worse.”

We see and hear about all kinds of foods that we can have in life because of the work of bees. Then he turns it around on kids saying that they can be bothersome too, “But I never stop loving you.” He makes (literally) sweet comparisons between his kids and the foods that come from pollination.

At the end of the book, there’s another two-page spread that’s about the different kids of bees (and wasps and similar) and what to do to be safer around bees. The cover of the book shows what looks like one of his boys being concerned about a bee, then reaching out with careful attention toward a bee. The back cover says “Love will conquer fear.”

This is a beautiful, poignant, informative picture book. It just came out, but I can guarantee it will be raking in the awards over the next year. Strongly recommended for all children and adults.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try I’m Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton or Bees: A Honeyed History by Piotr Socha.] [ official The Thing About Bees: A Love Story book trailer ] | [ official Shabazz Larkin web site ]

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Recommended by Garren H.
Bennett Martin Public Library


A Grand Success! The Aardman Journey, One Frame at a Time
by Peter Lord and David Sproxton (791.433 Lor)]

I really wanted to love this book, considering how much I love the short and feature-length films put out by Aardman Animation. But, while I do still recommend this book, it ended up not being quite what I anticipated.

Aardman Animation is the company behind the Wallace & Gromit series of films, Chicken Run, Early Man, and the Shaun the Sheep series. They specialize in stop motion animation, an old-school form of animating figures by moving clay or plasticine figures a tiny amount and shooting a single frame of film. The artists of Aardman have collectively won several Academy Awards and other film industry honors for their work.

This novel tells the story of the company’s founders and how they first got into film-making, and how they initially founded Aardman back in the 1970s. The book then jumps back and forth, exploring the expansion of the company over the years, the various production deals they had with several other studios, both in Hollywood and in their home base of England, and descriptions of many of the artists who are associated with the company. The book spends a lot of time talking about the Aardman business model — the philosophies that the founders have about how Aardman should be run — in fact, a large chunk of the latter third of the book goes into this in great detail…which detracted from the information about their actual productions (which is what I was most interested in).

I definitely learned a lot about the company, and a few tidbits about the production of some of their iconic films and videos (they did the animation for the music video of “Sledgehammer”!). But much of the second half of the book was a bit dry and business-like and I ultimately ended up skipping past sections to get to the more interesting stuff. If you, as a reader and viewer, are interested in the minutiae of running a company in a smaller city in England, you may find it more interesting than I did.

All in all, an interesting book.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to view the films/TV-series Chicken Run, Early Man, Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep or Flushed Away, all by the Aardman Animation studio. They also have multiple YouTube channels available for viewing their work.] [ publisher’s official A Grand Success! web page ] | [ official Aardman Animation web site ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Invitation Only Murder
by Leslie Meier

This book takes Lucy to an island off the coast of Maine where she’s working on an article for the local newspaper. In the style of the classic cozy or closed circle mystery, a murder happens and Lucy has to find out who the killer is and keep everyone else on the island alive with the help? of a possible mentally unbalanced billionaire, his family, and the caretakers that may or may not be involved.

I liked the fact it’s much different than her other books. Lucy doesn’t seem as negative and since her children are not present, we’re distanced from their unending drama. Overall, it’s one of her better books.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Death of the Party by Carolyn Hart, or Murder With Puffins by Donna Andrews.] [ official Leslie Meier web site ]

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Recommended by Marcy G.
South and Gere Branch Libraries


Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages
by Michael Popek (002 Pop)

Working in a library, we tend to see a lot of…unusual…things left behind in books that are returned to the libraries. Over the years, we’ve even occasionally had displays put up highlighting the odd bookmarks that customers have neglected to reclaims — from the commonplace (receipts, scrap paper, photos, etc.) to the hard-to-explain (a piece of bacon).

Therefore, the title of this slim volume immediately resonated with me. Forgotten Bookmarks is, as the title suggests, a celebration of the odd things left behind in books that were handled by author Michael Popek in his full-time job as an antiquarian book dealer. He breaks the types of “left behind” objects into broad categories, then shows photographs of the object in question (sometimes with either a blown-up image to illustrate it more clearly, and sometimes with a transcription of the text if it’s hard to read — handwritten notes, etc.), although with a photo of the book the “bookmark” was found within. There is very little explanatory text — Popek usually lets the “lost bookmark” speak for itself.

This is a fun, quirky little read, which should especially appeal to book lovers — those who prefer to hold a physical book in their hands over the more clinical experience of reading e-books. A little goes a long way however — I think I would have enjoyed this a bit more if I’d spread it out over more time, reading just a few entries at a time. Instead, I read it pretty much in a single sitting, and the “lost bookmarks” tended to all sort of blur together.

And, honestly, though many of the remnants in this volume, particularly those which included handwritten notes, were heart-warming, on the “weird” end of the spectrum, I’ve seen far weirder things left in library books that Popek chronicles in his bookseller experience.

[ official Forgotten Bookmarks and author website ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Heart of Barkness
by Spencer Quinn (as an audiobook)

The latest “Chet & Bernie” mystery novel, told from the point-of-view of Chet, the noirishly-inclined and enthusiastic — if easy distracted — canine partner of human sleuth Bernie Little, is a return to the popular series after a gap of four years, during which author Spencer Quinn (actually an alias for Peter Abrahams) branched out with two new series for youth (the Bowser & Birdie series [3 volumes so far], and the Queenie & Arthur series [also three volumes so far], and the stand-alone adult novel The Right Side). I’ve missed Chet & Bernie, and they don’t disappoint in this new tale, which involves Bernie looking into the questionable details when a fading country music star is arrested for the stabbing death of her overbearing agent/manager. Bernie doesn’t think she could have done what she’s accused of, but his digging into the case may unearth some secrets that somebody wants to keep buried in the past.

As usual, I enjoyed this as a Book-on-CD audiobook, narrated by Jim Frangione. Frangione is absolutely perfect as the audiobook narrator for this entire series (this is volume 9 so far with a 10th coming in 2020). Chet is one of the most unique narrative voices in the entire mystery genre, and Frangione brings Chat’s “voice” to life with perfection. Strongly recommended for fans of this series, or for anyone wanting to enjoy a mystery with a compelling and quirky narrator.

[ official Heart of Barkness page on the official Spencer Quinn web site ]

— Hear Scott C. talk about Heart of Barkness (and the rest of the Chet & Bernie series) in the ‘Casting About podcast series episode #63

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Star Wars ReviewsResistance Reborn
by Rebecca Roanhorse

Much as “Rise of Skywalker” has been described as fan service, Resistance Reborn could also be described the same way. This is a really nice story, but if one is only a casual Star Wars fan, it might turn out to be difficult to fully appreciate without stopping to consult Wookieepedia on a regular basis. There are story elements from Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline, Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath trilogy, the Poe Dameron comic book series and even the story-mode campaign from the video game Star Wars: Battlefront II (not to mention a fun cameo from a prune-faced alien that hardcore Star Wars fans will enjoy). There’s a lot going on in this novel, including a very engaging story about a Corellian citizen turned First Order convert. My assigned rating reflects that casual fans might have trouble fully enjoying this book. For dedicated Star Wars fans, this book is a solid “8”, maybe even a “9” if one loves geeking out about a trove of Easter Eggs in the story. I would advise reading the recommended books listed below before taking on this story.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Bloodline by Claudia Gray, Aftermath Aftermath: Life Debt and Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig, or Star Wars: Poe Dameron (comic book series) by Charles Soule.] [ Resistance Reborn article on Wookiepedia ] | [ official Rebecca Roanhorse web site ]

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Recommended by Corey G.
Gere Branch Library


This Just In: What I Couldn’t Tell You on TV
by Bob Schieffer (070.192 Sch)

Long-time reporter Bob Schieffer discusses the stories and people that spanned his career. The book begins with the Kennedy assassination in 1963 through the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade towers in New York City in 2001. He provides fascinating, and frequently emotional and poignant, behind-the-scenes stories on people and events.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and ended up buying my own copy. No part of the book got bogged down in a boring recitation of “just the facts.” He provided context in both location, situation, and people involved.

This is a fast-read that I couldn’t put down even at 423 pages.

[ Wikipedia page about Bob Schieffer ] | [ official Bob Schieffer Twitter feed ]

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Recommended by Charlotte M.
Bennett Martin Public Library


They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, with art by Harmony Becker (YA PB (Graphic Novel) Takei)

This powerful graphic novel memoir, written by actor George Takei (with help from Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott), and with art by Harmony Becker, is a compelling and haunting look at one of the darkest chapters in American history.

Takei, forever Hikaru Sulu in the minds of classic Star Trek fans, has been an activist in his later years, speaking out about cultural, political and moral issues close to his heart. The two topics he gravitates towards the most are gay rights — Takei has been open about his homosexuality since the 1980s and has been married to his husband Brad since 2008 (though they’ve been together since 1987), and the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

This memoir tells the story of his family, George, his father and mother, and younger brother and sister, and the harrowing experiences they had in first Camp Rohwer in Arkansas, and then Camp Tule Lake in California. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, there was a great deal of undeserved distrust of Americans of Japanese descent in the United States. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, instructing the military to gather up all Japanese-Americans in the U.S. and “detail” them in ten Internment camps scattered throughout the country. This Japanese families, comprised of 127,000 individuals (112,000 on the West Coast, and the rest scattered through the country) was made up of 80,000 Nisei (first generation individuals born in the U.S. to immigrant parents), and the rest were either Sansei (grandchildren of immigrants) or Issei (the original Japanese immigrants not eligible for citizenship).

This book jumps back and forth in time, with framing sequences of a current-day Takei speaking at both a TEDTalk in Kyoto, and in 2017 at an event at Roosevelt’s historic home. But the majority of the book is told in flashbacks to George’s experiences growing up in the internment camps, and his memories of his parents. I was aware of his story in only broad strokes — I had enjoyed seeing a filmed version of his stage musical Allegiance (and the CD soundtrack of that show), which looked at the Japanese internment in a more general sense), but this book managed to tell a much more detailed version of the story.

This is a sorrowful story, but also leavened with a great deal of humor. As a child, George Takei did not necessarily see the imprisonment of his people as the horrible situation that it was — instead, he was just a little kid and that’s the way he remembers growing up. But, looked back on now from his 80s, it’s amazing the equanimity he is able to maintain when speaking or writing about it today.

And this is the perfect time to reflect on this dark chapter in American history, when war-inspired prejudice led to unthinkable actions. Takei speaks up frequently to point out the frightening parallels between the Japanese American experiences in the 1940s and the Mexican American and Islamic American experiences today.

Absolutely unforgettable read. Highly recommended.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try the Broadway musical Allegiance, by George Takei (and others).] [ publisher’s official They Called Us Enemy web page ] | [ official George Takei web site ]

— Hear Scott C. talk about They Called Us Enemy in the ‘Casting About podcast series episode #62

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


Screening Room

formatdvdAn American in Paris
(DVD American)

A classic of the movie musical genre, this 1952 film stars Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron (making her film debut at age 19), Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary and Nina Foch. It was written by Alan Jay Lerner and directed by Vincente Minelli, and features the music of George and Ira Gershwin.

Gene plays Jerry Mulligan, an American G.I. who stayed in Paris after WWII ended, and is barely ekeing out a living as a painter selling his wares on the streets of the city. Jerry is approached by a rich woman (Foch), wishing to financially back him (but obviously after much more than just his art). But Jerry falls for the young, beautiful Lise (Caron), who, herself, is engaged to popular entertainer Henri (Guetary). Throw in Jerry’s piano-playing composer friend Adam (Levant) as broad comic relief, and you’ve got criss-crossing three-way-romance plots.

The film includes numerous song-and-dance numbers, featuring classic and catchy music. Of particular note are: “I Got Rhythm” and “S’ Wonderful”. The film’s final 17-18 minutes is one long, extended, dreamlike ballet sequence. All the actors are top notch, and even if the story itself is a little light-weight, the pleasant performances, and mesmerizing musical numbers really keep this film in the top echelon of Hollywood movie musicals. The stage musical based on this film, which is coming to the Lied Center for the Performing Arts, premiered in Paris in 2014 and in New York in 2015.

[ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ Wikipedia page for An American in Paris ]

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Recommended by Scott C.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdStar Trek: Discovery
(DVD Star)

As a longtime fan of the original Star Trek television series, I am always keen to see what new writers can do with the science fiction world originally created by Gene Roddenberry. The newest DVD series to be acquired by the Lincoln City Library system is called Star Trek: Discovery, which takes places in the years before Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock explore the galaxy on the Starship Enterprise. I am currently watching the last episode of Season 2 in which Captain Pike (Captain Kirk’s predecessor) and his crew are fighting to save all sentient life from destruction by artificial life known as Control.

The episodes are action-packed with excellent acting, superior visual effects and good stories. I am especially impressed with the acting skills of Anson Mount (as Captain Christopher Pike), Sonequa Martin-Green (as Michael Burnham), and Doug Jones (as Commander Saru). I thoroughly enjoyed the story lines in the second season; they were more gripping than the the ones explored in the first season. I am looking forward to seeing where the next season will take the crew of the USS Discovery!

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Star Trek, Star Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or the new streaming series Picard.] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this TV series ] | [ official Star Trek: Discovery web site ]

See also: Charlotte M.’s review of Discovery (season one) on BookGuide from August 2019

See also: Star Trek – The Reading List for hundreds of Star Trek novels, including several based on Star Trek Discovery

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Recommended by Kim J.
Bennett Martin Public Library


formatdvdStuber
(DVD Stuber)

I checked this DVD out initially for background noise as I worked on other projects. The preview made it look funny enough but once it started I couldn’t look away.
Vic – a police officer – watches his partner die at the hands of a drug dealer. He becomes so focused on revenge that he loses sight of the rest of his life. His superior officer tells him to take a vacation and he uses this time to get Lasik surgery. Later that day he gets a tip about the drug dealer but unfortunately he is unable to see due to his surgery. He orders an Uber to take him to the guy who gave him the tip and the driver – Stu – becomes involved in the whole ordeal when members of the drug cartel come after them both.

I was surprised to have enjoyed it so much – there were many laugh out loud moments – and I would definitely watch it again.

[If you enjoy this, you may also wish to try Rush Hour,] [ Internet Movie Database entry for this film ] | [ official Stuber web site ]

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Recommended by Carrie R.
Bennett Martin Public Library


last updated May 2020
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